A Day in the Life of a Zookeeper

A Day in the Life of a Zookeeper
Ever wonder what its like to share your world with a bunch of crazy critters? Tune in to find out!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

August Month in Review

I can't believe its the last day of August.  Further - I can't believe how horrible I have been about blogging.  I only blogged  12 days this month - I think the least amount since I have started the blog several years ago.  I think that the sadness from Clooney's  passing and the chaos that has ensued with the piglet coming into our lives left me little time to put my thoughts on the blog.

Clooney's passing hit me much harder than I anticipated.  Not really the crying, weepy sadness I anticipated but a more profound emptiness that I am still working through.  I miss him terribly and think of him much of each day.

Winston has been a wonderful addition and distraction - we adore him!  He is a delightful little piglet but he has turned our world upside down.  He had lots of firsts this month - new foods, potty training, first vet visit, learning tricks, getting used to critter siblings.  He is fitting right in and doing just great.

The ferrets - they are all doing great.  They are in good health and adjusting to life with a piglet.  The girls are much more "chill" than the boys.  Madison and Violet are able to interface with Winston with minimal drama - Finn and Theo - not so much.

Kitties are all just fantastic I am happy to report.  Oliver - the zoo ambassador is trying to be friends with the piglet.  Some days go better than others.  The girl kitties are not sure what to make of Winston.

In general - this has been a good critter month.  I am hoping that with time my Clooney ache will get better and that Winston will continue to thrive here.

Bring on fall and the holidays...this year has blazed by - wow!

Friday, August 29, 2014

A New Routine

Lots of things have changed around here since the piglet came into our lives.  He is the first critter we have had that we couldn't leave with the rest of the gang unattended.  It has resulted in a new routine which seems to be working fairly well.

At about 7 am Winston wakes up and starts to raise a ruckus.  He gets his vitamin - a children's chewable with iron and then he goes back to bed.  Closer to 8 he really raises a ruckus because he wants his breakfast.  We are working on potty training as well - so sometimes between 7 and 8 we have a long debate about whether he should pee in his box.  He is a very vocal pig.

During this time he is in his pen in our room so its open and the rest of the house is free range for the rest of the gang.  Winston likes to have his breakfast and go back to bed for a bit.  Around 9 am we close the bedroom door and make sure no ferrets are present and open up the pen.  Winston investigates the bedroom and plays until around 11 am.

Around 11 am we move downstairs.  Ferrets move freely and are allowed to interface until things get too rough - then they go up into the bedroom for the afternoon nap time.  The pig, dog and cats are downstairs.  Winston has access to the bulk of the downstairs - the exceptions being the dining room, hall and bathroom - which has the dog food and cat food which he is not allowed to eat.  We also had a make a major litter box change from clay litter to a combination of pine and paper pellets.  Pigs will eat the clay litter which will expand in their gut and cause all sorts of issues.  We did a slow transition of half pine and half clay and then this week we switched over fully and let Winston have access to the boxes.  We are working on potty training downstairs as well.

During the day Winston gets two "cookies" - they are small dog bones and he loves them.  They get broken into 3 pieces each and we work on sit, up, around in a circle.  We also work on going outside on the deck - it takes some coaxing to get him to use the step down.  We are also working on harness training which is very slow going.

Around 5:30 we do the switch - ferrets come downstairs after napping and Winston goes upstairs.  He plays in our room until dinner which is around 7.  Ferrets get lots of love and attention downstairs where we wrestle and play and do treats.  After piglet eats we close up the pen and open the door and everyone heads to bed.  Then we start the whole thing all over again.  So far it seems to be working pretty well.

Winston and the girl ferrets play fairly well together.  I am hoping as he gets older that the boys and he will be able to interface without biting and head butting as well....baby steps.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Headlines of the Day

Friends - Sort of...

I have deduced that Theo loves the pig but - the pig makes him frustrated and over stimulated.  I had an appointment this morning so I got all the critters out of the bedroom except for Winston and Phoebe (I am okay with the cats and the pig - they can jump to places he can't get to.  So - I headed off for my appointment and came home a couple of hours later - only to find that it was Winston, Phoebe AND Theo in the bedroom.  Oh my!  I am not sure exactly what happened while I was gone but I came home to a scratched up piglet sleeping in his bed and a slobbered on ferret sleeping on our bed and a cat who was likely none the wiser that anything happened - she could sleep through a bomb.  The good thing was that I brought the piglet downstairs and Theo followed shortly after - they played and interacted and co-existed with no aggression from either for about 45 minutes.  This is a vast improvement over the 45 seconds Theo would take to bite the pig previously.

As I watched them interact I could see Theo getting more and more frustrated and wound up.  Winston is a rough little piglet - he head butts Theo (actually all the critters) and he lays on him - both of which make Theo mad.  He can only control himself for so long before he has to release that energy and bite on the pig.  So - into time out (our bedroom) he went for a bit.  All in all - I am happy with the progress....won't be leaving them alone again any time soon - geez...

Dr. Finn treats Bug Bites - Sort of...

Dr. Finn - Medicine Ferret is on the case again.  This morning I got my standard physical - nose, ears and mouth inspected but this afternoon while I was on a conference call Finn spent a good 30 minutes or so trying to "cure" my bug bites on the tops of my feet.  He tried to swipe them away with his nose - no luck.  He tried licking them - nope.  Then he tried to scratch them off with his ferret Wolverine nails - ouch!  Once he determined that he was unsuccessful he took a nap...being a ferret doctor is tiring work.

Working at Home with Critters is Interesting...

In addition to the critter applied medical treatments described above - add to that a loud piglet, a barky dog, the occasional cat fight, wrestling ferrets, loud bangs - usually the result of the ferrets pushing bottles into the tub - all I can say is thank goodness for the mute button!

Paper - he LOVES Paper!!!

Winston is crazy for paper.  He likes sheets of paper, paper towels, toilet paper, cardboard, the insides of packages, etc.  Pretty much any kind of paper.  Don't give him important papers - he likes to destroy them by chewing on them - mmmmm yummy paper... or by racing around like a maniac piglet with the paper in his mouth.  He is a hoot...

Slacker Zookeeper Has No Pics...

I have been slacking on taking pictures here lately - not sure why really - just busy with other stuff I guess.  I do have one to share today - my handsome Oliver kitty:

I think that might be it for the headlines for this Tuesday...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Emma the Trustworthy Girl

So - we had a jail break.  While we were out this afternoon little Mr. broke out of his pen.  He and Emma were in our bedroom together with no other critters.  Thankfully my girl was trustworthy and patient and didn't get angry with the piglet when I am sure he was a pain in the butt nipping at her toes and trying to jump on her.  There are MANY horror stories about bad interactions between pigs and dogs so we have been trying to keep them separated when we are not home to monitor things.  Normally we would have left the piglet in our room by himself but it was stormy out so Emma wanted to be under the bed...

We will need to figure out how to ensure that the piglet not break out of his pen because even though Emma was great today - I don't want to push it.  They were both happy to see us this evening - Emma was ready to be out of the bedroom and Winston was hungry.  Before he ate he had to meet the neighbors - he was a good boy - friendly and social and he did his tricks for an audience - can't ask for more than that...

They are both snoozing now with full bellies...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

And Then There Were Stairs...

Piglet likes to be on our bed...piglet doesn't like t be picked up...so - I bought these:

They were delivered today and I thought he could use them to get on the bed and practice for the big stairs.  Again - he is a smarty - it took him one tiny biscuit broken into three pieces to climb to the top.

So far he knows three tricks - sit, up - which he knows how to do but is not really super coordinated so sometimes it goes better than others - he also knows how to go in a circle as well.  He is fun to train because he catches on so fast.  And he is cute - when he thinks you might have something he runs through his tricks in an effort to get whatever he thinks you have.

We haven't actually used the steps to get anywhere yet so will have to see how that goes...baby steps..

PS - the ferrets love the steps - playing on them, wrestling, they are a big hit...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

If you Teach a Pig to Sit

Last week we taught our cutie tootie piglet to sit.  He learned it so quickly - literally it took 3 tries and he had it down pat.  He likes to be engaged and he loves to get rewarded.  I think with some patience from the humans we can teach him just about anything.

So - now that he knows how to sit and he understands that when he is asked and he does it he gets food - he is sitting obsessed.  He sits for everything - whether there is food involved or not.  He sits in an effort to get let out of his pen, in an effort to get the other critters to share food with him, in an effort to get pets, just for the heck of it to get praise.

It's really quite cute - he is very funny....  I am not a great videographer and we got video bombed by Emma - but this will give you an idea of the cuteness:


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Pigs Can Tell Time

Winston can tell time I think.  He gets fed at 8 am and he knows when its 8 am.  No need for an alarm clock - the piglet will snort and play and make all kinds of noise to let you know its time for breakfast.  In other pig news Winston learned to sit a few days ago. Now he does it all the time in an effort to get food.  He will sit for no reason with a crazy cute expression on his face - I need to capture that with the camera for sure.  He is too fun!!  He seems to be back to normal in regards to his injection sites and the soreness he had.  Yesterday he had some good playtime - running around with no limping.

The kitties are good - mostly just hanging out.  Oliver tries to interface with Winston which works some of the time but sometimes the piglet is too rough.  The other kitties are not quite sure what to think...

Violet and Winston played their blanket game yesterday.  Finn has decided that he need to ride the piglet like a rodeo star.  The is no biting involved but Winston doesn't love it.  Theo is still obsessed and Maddie just wants to play an endless game of tag.  To say the least - we are keeping them separated unless we are there to watch the goings on...

Emma likes the piglet but doesn't care for him jumping on her so she gives him a little warning bark. Seems to work - Winston goes on about his business.

All in all - we are good to go - everyone seems to be happy and feeling good.  We are working through knowing that Winston has a heart murmur and trying to move along normally and not worry about it until there is something to worry about.  It's in the back of your mind for sure but he seems great - running and playing and not exhibiting any signs of distress.  Fingers crossed.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Winston's First Vet Visit

Little piglet went to the vet for the first time today.  It was an experience to say the least...

First - the car - he was a perfect angel in the car - in his carrier and he stood for a bit and then got comfy and laid down for the duration of the trip.  There was no screeching thank goodness.  Let's just say it was much improved from our first car ride together!!

Once we got to the vet's office he got out of his carrier and checked out the place.  All was good until the exam started.  He weighed 5.24 pounds which means he has gained almost a pound since he has come to live with us.  He was a screechy and uncooperative little bratty pig - but we managed to get through it...

The good news is that he is a pretty healthy little piggy.  The not so great news is that the vet heard a heart murmur.  Heart murmurs are one of those wait and see kind of things.  The vet has told us the symptoms to watch for and now we proceed as normal and keep an eye out for any signs.  So far he has none of those symptoms and he is an active and happy little pig.  I am going with the attitude that we shouldn't worry about this until there is something to worry about because in many cases the murmur never causes any issues.

Winston also got a couple of injections today - one of them caused him to be quite stiff and sore in the back hip area.  Poor little guy was really favoring his back leg this afternoon and was not wanting to be touched anywhere near the injection site.  He spent most of the day curled up in blankets snoozing.  We had dinner plans this evening and I was a little bit worried to leave him by himself but I am happy to report once we got home he was up and about and very close to using his leg normally.  He was hungry and scarfed up some dinner.  Then we had some cuddle time in my lap.  He was happy to go back to his covers.  I just heard him get up and get a drink so I think he is on his way back to normal.

I didn't get great pictures - just some before the vet came in.  After screeching started - all bets were off:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Three Critter Vet Visit

It was supposed to be four but Miss Madison was nowhere to be found this morning so it was just Violet, Finnegan and Theo...

I am pleased to report that they are all doing just fine.  This was an appointment for annual physicals so they got ears, eyes, teeth checked, lymph nodes palpated, spleens poked at, boy parts, girl parts and butt parts checked, foot pads and skin checked.  Thankfully all the babies look great!!  Theo was kind enough to make a deposit while we were there so we ran a fecal and it was negative as well.

Not many snaps from today's appointment - Finn doesn't like to go so he makes me hold him the entire time.  Here he is on my shoulder with his face buried in the back of my shirt - poor little guy:

Violet and Theo were out and about exploring:

So - I will be making an appointment for Maddie - Phoebe is up next and then the dreaded Zoey appointment - U G H!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Critter Tales

Its been a fairly uneventful weekend so far - lots of rain resulting in sleepy or hiding furry children -

The ferrets have been something else here lately.  Madison is in love with the games of tag with Winston the pig.  Violet has been very social with the pig and in general - we are loving that.  The boys have been giving me a run for my money the last couple of days.

Theo is obsessed with the pig - he wants to jump on the pig and bite the pig and Winston doesn't really love this....  as a result - Theo is also obsessed with breaking into Winston's upstairs pen.  First he decided he would make a huge leap from the bed onto the dresser - then he can use the dresser to jump into the pen.  This was circumvented by placing a flattened cardboard box in the top drawer of the dresser - closing it in so it stands up straight creating a ferret deflection shield.  This worked as a deterrent for a few hours....

Then Theo decided that it was important to squish himself to flat and get behind the dresser and then squeeze himself between the wall and the side of the pen.  Sigh..so - I broke out the duct tape and taped shut the gap between the dresser and the wall - this was okay til he figured out that he can climb the tape - so out came a slippery plastic lid that got taped to the top of the dresser.  HAHA evil ferret - I have stumped you - at least for 8 hours or so....

Finn has found his own troubles - he has found that if he climbs over the cups, onto the water machine he can skinny between the bed and the wall to get into the headboard where we store the linens.  Sigh - no place is safe.  I couldn't find him the other night and then all of a sudden I heard paper crinkling - couldn't figure out from where.  Yep - it was the headboard.  Not sure what to do to keep them out of the headboard - my brain is stewing on that one.

Winston is doing great - spending lots of time in laps getting loved on and getting more and more accustomed to being touched, loved on and even picked up a tiny bit.  Working on the litter box - I would say he gets it about 75 - 80% of the time which isn't bad for 5 days of exposure.  We are also working on no biting - he doesn't really bite but he likes to put his mouth on everything - human, critter or otherwise so we are trying to break him of that.  He is doing well with self entertainment and seems content to play with his toys or snooze in his blanket while the humans are busy.  All in all - pig parenthood is good - we love him to death!

Kitties are all doing well - very sleepy with the weather.  Emma is hating the rain and has spent the bulk of the weekend hiding under the bed.  I am going to try to get her to come with me to the pet store to pick up a few things.  We will see.

In sad news - my sweet little SteveIrwin betta fish passed away yesterday - he was a very tenacious fish - we will miss him....not sure we will be doing any additional fish - so hard...

And there you have it - the tales from the weekend...

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Stories of the Day

It's been a pretty good critter day today.

Winston - he spent his day playing, napping and eating.  He got to go outside on the deck for a bit which he loved.  We are trying to find a good balance between time with us and time on his own.  He needs to develop the skills to self entertain and not expect attention all the time.  He was in his upstairs pen for the morning - playtime early and then he took a nap while I worked and had lunch. Then downstairs to meet his grandparents and to play for the afternoon.  The upstairs around 3 while I was in meetings and around 5:30 playtime with Finn and Ollie.  Now he is happily playing in his pen by himself with his toys.  This is good.  At 8 pm he will get his evening dinner and about 8:30 he heads to his bed.  We are still figuring each other out.  He is getting more and more used to me.  He still hates to be picked up.  He was playing in the shark cube I posted about a few days ago so I did have the opportunity to get an official weight - 4.24 pounds....  Life with a pig is all good!!

Ferrets - the ferrets have been pretty sleepy today - I think because they were WIDE OPEN at 3 am this morning.  The ferrets engage well with the piggy - the girls are interested but apprehensive.  Finn is fascinated and gives the piggy a full physical each time he sees him - checking Winston's eyes, snout, ears - the pig is actually pretty tolerant of this.  Then there is Theo - wow- Theo is VERY excited by the pig.  He jumps on the pig and bites the pigs ears.  Winston is not at all fond of this and Theo is desperate to play so he gets his feeling hurt.  Those two have to be closely monitored. Actually - I don't really trust any of them - pig or ferrets so when they are alone they are separated.

Kitties - let's face it - Oliver is our zoo ambassador.  He is the one critter who gets along with everyone.  He and the piggy are friends already.  The girl kitties are mildly interested so long as Winston is in his pen but when he is out and about they jump for higher ground.

Emma is in love with the pig but she does not love when the piggy tries to suckle on her.  Again - we don't leave the dog and the pig together unattended.

SteveIrwin is on his last legs I think - he is still hanging on but I don't think he is doing very well - I have been medicating his water but I am not optimistic.  Poor little fish - I so hope he surprises me!!

Winston goes to bed around 8:30 - so I spend the time after he is sleeping to play with the other critters - I am trying to make their days as routine as they were before the pig entered our world.  All four ferrets were downstairs playing and wrestling - they all seem happy and healthy and engaged. Kitty ears are medicated and I think I might be done for tonight....

Today was filled with thoughts of Clooney and a few tears as well.  In some ways it seems like forever ago that we lost him - in reality its been 10 days.  I miss him so and was thinking about what he would think of Winston.  At first I thought he would have hated having a new critter - but then I got to thinking about how he finally accepted Theo and Finn - maybe he would have liked him after all.  Really missing him today for some reason...

And there you have it - the stories of the day!  :)

Monday, August 04, 2014

Pig Mania

We are experiencing pig mania here....the addition of Winston had brought quite a bit of excitement to our little zoo!!

Now - let me be honest with you - getting a pig was a bit traumatic for this zookeeper.  I know nothing about pigs and I had some romantic idea that getting a little sweet cuddly piglet was like getting a kitten or a puppy.  Um - no... not so much.

Winston is one month old - when we got him we were the second humans to ever handle him - he was very frightened.  Piglets squeal when you pick them up.  Squealing sounds so nice - its a cute word.  Let's be very clear - piglets scream at the top of their lungs and they won't stop til you put them down.  It's a very deafening and uncomfortable interaction.  We picked our piggy and I got in the car and spread blankets on my lap - he got in the car and it was awful - screaming, biting, bucking like a bronco - ugh.  It was a long car ride home - none of us happy....

Then we got him inside and settled into his space.  He was scared of us, scared of his new surroundings - he was not a happy piggy.  We got him calmed down and ready for bed - he finally fell asleep and me - not knowing anything about pigs - tried to cover him up.  Big mistake - he freaked out.  We got him settled down again and with some coaxing - got him covered up.  He did pretty well his first night - only up one time.

On Sunday - more screaming if he was picked up but less afraid of us.  He was eating treats of carrot and zucchini and was relaxing a bit.  Sunday evening was the start of the good things I think.  We had a friend over and we brought Winston downstairs.  We figured out that its not actually the act of being picked up that freaks him out - its the not having his hooves on the ground.  We put him in the carrier we use for the ferrets which has a very sturdy bottom.  He doesn't love it - but we can get him downstairs and back up again without losing our hearing.  He was great - interactive, social, playing with toys, eating.  A happy piggy...

Today - he spent a bit of time alone as I had a breakfast meeting.  Then into the carrier and downstairs where he spent the bulk of the day snoozing and playing and interacting.  Then we had a major break through - he actually climbed into my lap and went to sleep!  I think he might like me and even though we got off to a bit of a rough start - I adore him!!  So much fun!

So - here are some random pictures - more to come soon.  Tomorrow - a post on how everyone is getting along with Mr. Piggy:

meeting Emma

Meeting some of the gang - Madison (Left), Phoebe (Center), Oliver (Right)

Getting used to drinking out of a bowl

Settled in for his first night home - this was before the failed cover attempt

Re-situated after freaking out about being covered up - having decided it isn't all that bad 

First meal at his new house

Napping on the dog bed

Toys Toys Toys!!!

Snoozing in the afternoon sun...